After several years of strong growth, business aviation has been hit hard by the financial meltdown, with the Middle East no exception to the worldwide slump.
Cessna, part of the $11 billion US-based conglomerate Textron Inc., has responded by slashing its workforce from 16,000 to between 8,000 and 9,000 to help it endure the “darkest period in its recent history, ” said Jack Pelton, Cessna’s chairman, president and chief executive.
Cessna expects to deliver only 275 business jets this year compared to its original projected delivery total of 535 planes, Pelton told Khaleej Times during a recent visit to Dubai.
However, he said: “We are seeing light at the end of the tunnel. We believe the free-fall in business aviation is subsiding for the near-term... Optimism is back and we believe the worst is behind us.”
Cessna is the world’s largest manufacturer by sales of general aviation airplanes. In 2008, Cessna delivered 1,301 aircraft, including 467 Citation business jets, and reported revenues of about $5.66 billion.
Since its establishment in 1927, the company has delivered some 192,000 planes around the world, including more than 6,000 Citations. Cessna business jets are now more numerous than those of any other brand.
Although the Middle East has felt the impact of the financial crisis, the region’s dynamic economies are expected to continue growing thanks to aggressive development plans.
“We believe business aviation will be an important enabler for rising prosperity in the region,” Pelton said.
He argued that Cessna, with its line-up four models, is well-positioned to cope with the expected upturn in demand. “We are going to come out of the crisis with the existing range and (are) not planning any new product development for the time being,” he said.
Pelton claimed that Cessna’s “C” range of Citation business aircraft is “ideal” for the Middle East’s new commercial leaders. “Customers are increasingly balancing their wish for the time-saving advantages of business aviation with a pragmatic assessment of cost...,” he said.
“Whether an owner is looking for short-range regional transportation with our entry-level Citation Mustang or rapid intercontinental travel with a Citation X, Cessna is able to provide an ideal and compelling solution,” the executive said.
At last month’s Dubai Airshow 2009, Cessna announced the delivery of a Citation XLS+ to the Establishment National de la Navigation Aérienne of Algeria.
“The Citation XLS+ is very popular in the Middle East and Africa and is well-suited to the role of flight calibration given its stability at low speeds and altitudes – a key requirement for flight inspection missions,” he said.
This model features Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics and electronically controlled engines from Pratt & Whitney Canada. It travels at up to 817 kilometres per hour and has a range of over 3,441 kilometres.
Also at the air show, Cessna announced the first delivery to a Middle East customer of a new Citation X business jet and the delivery of a Citation Sovereign business jet to Arab Wings of Jordan.
The Citation X aircraft, retrofitted with Elliptical Winglets, was delivered to Saad Wallan, chairman of Wallan Aviation.
Based in Riyadh and Dubai, Wallan Aviation is Cessna’s authorized sales representative and Citation service center for the Middle East.
Cessna and Winglet Technology collaborated to develop the patented Elliptical Winglet for retrofit on the Citation X. The winglet shape ensures lift distribution that closely matches optimum lift distribution along the span of the wing. The resulting reduction in drag enhances performance and saves on fuel consumption, Pelton said.
Arab Wings, founded in 1975, is the oldest executive air charter operator in the Middle East.
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